Zimmerman: Absence of Evidence is not Evidence of Absence

September 6, 2012

As I reviewed comments to my article yesterday on crime scene investigation, I noticed some concern about the apparent failure of the police to determine whether there was any blood present on the sidewalk, or in the grass next to it that might confirm or deny Zimmerman’s claim that Martin repeatedly slammed the back of Zimmerman’s head into the sidewalk. I decided to comment on that concern. As so often happens, my answer grew in the telling and after an hour or so, I realized that I had written my next post.

How lawyers deal with missing evidence is the subject of this post. The short answer is absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Luminol is a liquid that reacts with blood to produce a bluish glow. Crime scene investigators spray it on areas that they suspect might have been cleaned up to get rid of any blood that might have been present. The luminol spray is extremely sensitive and will react with invisible trace amounts of blood residue to produce a visible glow in the dark that can be photographed with the right equipment.

Although luminol is more often used in indoor environments to confirm or deny a suspicion that a particular area is a cleaned-up crime scene, it also can be used in outdoor areas where rain might have washed away all of the visible blood.

I have not seen any indication in the discovery that the crime scene investigators used or considered using luminol to detect trace amounts of blood on the sidewalk or in the grass next to it. It’s possible that they might have considered, but rejected, using luminol for some reason and did not mention it in a report.

Lawyers characterize this type of situation as a missing evidence problem. Although not relevant here, other known causes of missing evidence are intentional destruction of evidence and unexplained loss of evidence.

Depending on the materiality or importance of the missing evidence to proving its case, missing evidence can make it more difficult, if not impossible, for a prosecutor to prove a case. When the missing evidence would have been favorable to the defense, it can cause an innocent person to be convicted.

Missing evidence problems are not uncommon. I have most often encountered them when I reviewed police reports while preparing for a hearing or trial. They arise during police and crime scene investigations because the people involved did not have adequate training or a set of rules or procedures or even a checklist to follow. In this case, for example, the investigators might not have known about luminol, or, assuming they did, they might have forgotten to try it.

I most often spot potential problems, like the one suggested in this case by the apparent failure to use or consider using luminol, because I know enough about forensics, crime scene investigations, and police procedures to spot issues and ask the right questions. I know what I know because I made it my business to study and learn it. Given the ever increasing importance of forensics in criminal trials, I firmly believe that all lawyers involved in that work should do the same. I used to educate lawyers about forensics at continuing
legal education conferences in the western states and I developed and taught an upper level course emphasizing forensics in law school on the causes of wrongful convictions of innocent people.

In the Zimmerman case, I believe the defense should consult with an expert to determine whether the use of luminol is a standard practice by crime scene investigators in this type of situation. If the answer is “yes,” the defense should endorse that expert and add him or her to the defense witness list. It also should ask the expert to produce a written report explaining why the use of luminol is a standard practice in a situation like this.

The defense would send a copy of the report to the prosecutors to comply with its discovery obligations.

The defense would call this witness to testify during the defense case. If I were to make the closing argument, I would handle the missing evidence issue by emphasizing the following points. As you read this, notice that the factual foundation for the argument would have been established by the testimony of the defense expert and the argument itself incorporates the self-defense instruction while emphasizing that the prosecution has the burden of proof.

See if you can spot the problem with this argument.

(1) The prosecution has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s use of deadly force was unreasonable under the circumstances;

(2) The defendant testified and told you that he believed he was going to die or suffer serious injury, unless he used his gun to defend himself.

(3) The Court’s jury instructions set out the legal definition of self-defense. The instruction tells you that a person may use deadly force when he reasonably believes he is in imminent danger of being killed or suffering serious bodily injury.

(4) The defendant told you what happened. He described the circumstances that he faced that night and those circumstances satisfy the legal definition of self-defense set forth in the jury instruction.

(5) Unfortunately, the police failed to preserve important evidence in this case when they failed to confirm the presence of the defendant’s blood on the sidewalk and in the grass next to it by spraying the area with luminol and recording the bluish glow for y’all to see in a photograph.

(6) Their failure to do that not only would have supported his claim that he believed he was in imminent danger of being killed or suffering serious bodily injury, it would have conclusively confirmed that his belief was reasonable.

(7) We would not be here today, if the police had done their job.

(8) Since the prosecution has the burden of proof and its investigators were uniquely able to confirm the presence of blood, but failed to do so, you should hold the prosecution responsible for depriving you and the defendant of the evidence that would have confirmed his testimony and established his innocence.

The problem with this argument is that it assumes that detectable trace amounts of the defendant’s blood were present on the sidewalk and grass next to it and would have been detected, if only the police had used luminol.

A good prosecutor would have spotted this problem and responded with a statement like this:

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. If there were no blood on the sidewalk or in the grass beside it, the use of luminol would not have produced a visible result.

If you carefully examine these close-up photographs of the defendant’s head taken at the police department after the shooting, you will see that his wounds are minor and the blood coagulated in the form of of a small river that flowed down curling around the back and lower part of his ear. From there it flowed along his chin line and collected in his goatee.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Even if you believe the defendant’s claim that Martin bashed his head repeatedly into the sidewalk, here is no reason to believe that a single drop of blood fell on the sidewalk.

Take another look at those little cuts. The absence of significant abrasions and bruising tells you that the defendant’s head did not repeatedly come in contact with the sidewalk.

Zimmerman: Crime Scene Investigation

September 5, 2012

Criminal trials have changed dramatically since I tried my first case in Seattle Municipal Court in July, 1977. With the exception of an occasional murder trial, most cases back in those days did not involve forensics.

I also recall that the detectives who worked homicides and assaults appeared to have little concern about introducing trace evidence and foreign substances into a crime scene by tracking it in on their shoes or boots. They were permitted to smoke while collecting evidence and thought nothing of leaving their cigarette butts at the crime scene. I was never certain whether the hairs they collected at the crime scene were there before they arrived or whether they unintentionally introduced them into the environment at the crime scene via shedding after they arrived.

I hate to admit it, but all of the lawyers I knew back then, including myself, were scared to death of math and science. For example, most of us decided to go to law school because we wanted to earn graduate degrees. We decided on law school because we had convinced ourselves that we could not make it through any graduate degree program that involved math or science.

Like most lawyers, I assumed that forensic scientists were basically honest and I did not question or challenge their assumptions and opinions. Instead, I accepted their opinions as unassailable and developed trial strategies to work around them.

I began to question the validity of my irrational fear of math and science in the early 80s around the same time that scattered reports of forensic fraud started appearing in the news. I remember reading about Dr.Jeffrey’s efforts in England to apply laboratory methodologies to extract human DNA from biological evidence recovered at crime scenes. Although promising, the major problem with his method, which was called RFLP testing, was that it required larger amounts of pristine DNA than were typically recovered at crime scenes.

A few years later, I read about a new method of typing DNA called PCR testing that was developed by Dr. Kari Mullis. His method mimicked the process of cell division by creating millions of copies of targeted sequences of DNA that could easily be typed thereby eliminating the need to recover large biological samples from crime scenes. In fact, the method was so sensitive, simple, and effective that it could create enough copies to accurately type the DNA obtained from a few cells.

I soon realized that PCR’s unique ability to accurately type vanishingly small quantities of human DNA was also its greatest weakness because it would also create millions of copies of DNA from another human source inadvertently and accidentally introduced into a crime scene by a detective collecting evidence, or into the testing process in the lab by a laboratory analyst. I recall that I was stunned by the possibilities.

My comfortable views regarding how to try cases was shattered and from that time forward I made it my business to learn all that I could about forensic science and to use that knowledge trying cases.

That brings me to today’s subject for discussion. I have noticed y’all discussing the crime scene investigation conducted by the Sanford Police Department and wondering to what extent, if at all, they screwed it up. Assuming they did, the next question should be whether their screw-ups were material? In other words, will their screw-ups affect the outcome of the case?

To aid you in evaluating the efforts of the Sanford Police Department, I am going to turn you on to a treasure trove of resources that I am sure you will want to bookmark and explore in the future.

Follow this link to learn more more about crime scene investigations.

Zimmerman: Pssst! Hey Buddy, I Hear You Need an Expert Witness

August 19, 2012

Let us say that you are a prosecutor representing the State of Florida in State vs. George Zimmerman. You have been added to the trial team and you are going to be in charge of forensics and expert witnesses. Angela Corey wants to meet with you tomorrow morning at 7 am sharp. What do you do?

(a) Announce you are opting for early retirement to spend more time with your family;

(b) Look up the word forensics to see what it means before you announce that you are opting for early retirement to spend more time with your family;

(c) Call the Director of the Crime Lab and ask for help; or

(d) Make sure you know how to spell forensics and then pretend you know everything there is to know about the subject.

The correct answer, as it is in all cases where you know that you are not an authority on a subject, is to contact someone who is an authority and ask for help.

Prosecutors are fortunate because they can contact the director of their state crime laboratory.

Defense counsel who know little about science and even less about forensic science need to call someone like me who can review the case, spot forensic issues, and steer the lawyer in the right direction toward knowledgeable and respected experts in the various areas of forensic science that are relevant to their case.

I used to do that when I was a co-chair of the Forensics Committee of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. All calls from member lawyers west of the Mississippi River were referred to me and I spent many hours helping people out.

Let’s take a look at the rules of evidence and see what they have to say about expert witnesses. Evidence Rule 702 provides:

Testimony By Experts

If scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if

(1) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data,

(2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and

(3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.

Most of the witnesses who testify in trials are fact witnesses. They testify about something that they perceived through their five senses that is relevant to determine the outcome of a lawsuit. They are called fact witnesses because, with few exceptions, they are not permitted to express their opinions about facts they observed or infer the existence of facts that they did not actually observe.

Lawyers must be ever vigilant to spot and object to a fact witness expressing their opinion by representing it as a fact they observed.

If that happens, the lawyer should stand and say,

“Your Honor, I object because this witness is impermissibly expressing her personal opinion as fact. May I briefly voir dire the witness to lay the foundation for my objection.”

The judge will allow you to break in to opposing counsel’s examination.

Then you look the witness in the eye and ask,

Q: Ms. Witness, You just testified that my client stuffed a crocodile under the back seat of your patrol car, didn’t you.

A: Yes, I did.

Q: This was on the way to the jail, correct?

A: Yes.

Q: You were driving correct?

A: Yes.

Q: Watching the road ahead of you, right?

A: I reviewed your report, but I didn’t see you mention anything about seeing a crocodile in your rear view mirror, correct?

A: Yes, but

Q: And my client was handcuffed with her wrists behind her back, right?

A: But, but she had to have done it because . . .

Your Honor, this witness expressed an opinion, which is improper. Therefore, I move to strike her testimony when she said my client hid the crocodile under the back seat.

I also ask you to instruct the ladies and gentlemen of the jury to disregard that testimony.

The judge should comply with your request. Then you thank him and sit down.

Now opposing counsel gets to resume questioning the witness.

This type of interruption can throw opposing counsel off stride, but an experienced lawyer will just smile and remind the witness to stick to the facts they observed.

Another way to accomplish the same result is to wait and do it during cross examination.

Expert witnesses, unlike fact witnesses, can express their opinions. Depending on the complexity of the case you have, there may be any number of areas where you want to put an expert witness on the stand to express an opinion regarding a matter and this is where science enters the courtroom to establish facts and resolve disputed issues of fact. We call this forensics.

Under Rule 702 an expert witness may testify in a case whenever a jury is likely to need assistance to understand or to determine a fact in issue in a trial.

There are many disputed questions of fact in the Zimmerman case that cannot be resolved by ordinary fact witnesses,

In fact, very few disputed issues of fact in this case can be resolved by the fact witnesses who are all over the place with conflicting and confusing statements about what they saw or heard.

Only one fact witness, George Zimmerman, knows what happened because he killed the other witness, Trayvon Martin.

The case would be open and shut, if there were no forensic evidence and George Zimmerman’s statements were consistent with each other and consistent with the forensic evidence. As we have seen, however that is not the case.

To solve this case, we have to put aside our fear of science, roll up our sleeves and grapple with science.

Okay, now pick a side, either defense or prosecution and pretend you have to meet with Mark O’Mara or Angela Corey tomorrow morning and tell them in which areas of science they need to retain experts.

We already know some areas from the reports we have read: DNA, blood spatter, pathology, toxicology, firearm identification, trace evidence analysis, audiology, voice stress voice comparison analysis.

What other areas of science do you think should be investigated?

Another thought to consider is that our legal system is an adversarial system where each side hires its own experts to fight it out in front of a jury that knows little about science.

Would it be better to have the court appoint independent experts to to examine the evidence and testify subject to cross examination by both sides?

Should the Court or the jury decide disputed issues that can only be resolved by scientific analysis?

What about the problem of junk science?

Pleasant dreams.

Zimmerman: The Power of Circumstantial Evidence

August 14, 2012

Because there are no eyewitnesses to the shooting except George Zimmerman, who claims he shot and killed Trayvon Martin in self-defense, the prosecution will have to rely on circumstantial evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman did not kill Trayvon Martin in self-defense.

Unfortunately, Florida does not define circumstantial evidence other than to call it “indirect” evidence. See Wadman v. State, 750 So.2nd 655 (FL 1999).

Washington State, where I practiced law for many years, defines direct and circumstantial evidence as follows:

Evidence may be either direct or circumstantial (WPIC 5.01).

Direct evidence is that given by a witness who testifies concerning facts which he or she has directly observed or perceived through the senses.

Circumstantial evidence consists of proof of facts or circumstances which, according to common experience permit a reasonable inference that other facts existed or did not exist.

The law makes no distinction between the weight to be given to either direct or circumstantial evidence. One is not necessarily more or less valuable than the other.

Wikipedia has a good discussion of circumstantial evidence:

A popular misconception is that circumstantial evidence is less valid or less important than direct evidence. This is only partly true: direct evidence is popularly, but mistakenly, considered more powerful. Many successful criminal prosecutions rely largely or entirely on circumstantial evidence, and civil charges are frequently based on circumstantial or indirect evidence. Much of the evidence against convicted American bomber Timothy McVeigh was circumstantial, for example. Speaking about McVeigh’s trial, University of Michigan law professor Robert Precht said, “Circumstantial evidence can be, and often is much more powerful than direct evidence”. The 2004 murder trial of Scott Peterson was another high-profile conviction based heavily on circumstantial evidence.

Indeed, the common metaphor for the strongest possible evidence in any case—the “smoking gun”—is an example of proof based on circumstantial evidence. Similarly, fingerprint evidence, videotapes, sound recordings, photographs, and many other examples of physical evidence that support the drawing of an inference, i.e., circumstantial evidence, are considered very strong possible evidence.

In practice, circumstantial evidence can have an advantage over direct evidence in that it can come from multiple sources that check and reinforce each other. Eyewitness testimony can be inaccurate at times, and many persons have been convicted on the basis of perjured or otherwise mistaken testimony. Thus strong circumstantial evidence can be a more reliable basis on which to determine a verdict.

In response to a Zimmerman supporter who posted recently here that circumstantial evidence can support conflicting conclusions, I said,

Anything is theoretically possible and the nature of circumstantial evidence is such that each individual circumstance in a chain of circumstances might indicate more than one possibility. However, when examined as a totality of circumstances, they add up to only one possibility.

Put another way, the more splainin’ that Zimmerman has to do by resorting to ridiculous extremes like, I was walking in the same direction as Martin but not following him because I was looking for a street name and an address to give the dispatcher, the more unlikely his story becomes. Especially when he has lived in the neighborhood for three years, patrolled it as the neighborhood watchman on a regular basis for months, and he walked right past townhouses on TTL with the addresses on them in plain view, ignored them, and never provided the dispatcher with an address. It doesn’t take any intelligence to figure out that he was never looking for an address.

Step by inexorable step he lies and lies and lies.

What is he concealing?

He wasn’t out there exercising in the rain.

He was hunting.

The answer is obvious to anyone with a functioning brain cell.

The burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, not beyond all theoretical doubt.

I am not going to detail every lie that we have revealed and discussed at length because I want to go macro on y’all and look at the big picture.

However, if you want to review the evidence to date, I recommend you watch this video prepared by our very own Whonoze.

Is there a discernible pattern to his lies that reveals his intent or are his lies mere random occurrences that happen due to chance?

Consider, for example, his stubborn insistence that Trayvon Martin suddenly came out of the bushes next to a townhouse or materialized out of the gloom on the N/S sidewalk a few feet south of the intersection and confronted him as he was on the sidewalk cut-through between TTL and RVC supposedly minding his own business returning to his vehicle parked on TTL.

Some who post here and at other internet sites contend that we must take GZ at his word and cannot look at other evidence (i.e., the circumstantial evidence) to determine if he is telling the truth and, if not, discern his intent.

Sorry, but that is not how trials work.

GZ claims that TM sucker punched him knocking him to the ground and then he jumped on him and started beating his head into the sidewalk and punching him repeatedly in the face.

Aside from the lack of physical injuries that would be consistent with such a claim, the location of the fight is inconsistent with the location of TM’s body. That is, if GZ is telling the truth, the body and the location of the fight should be in the same place, but they are not and he has no explanation for that other than he kind of sort of stumbled after TM hit him. Yet, that explanation only gets him a little less than halfway to the location of the body and various items found within a few feet of it, such as his phone, the earbuds, the can of iced tea, the Skittles, and the spent casing.

We have to ask ourselves what does the circumstantial evidence tell us regarding the fight that ended with TM’s death? That is, what can we reasonably infer from the evidence at the scene.

The initial conclusion is GZ lied about the nature and extent of Martin’s attack because his injuries do not support his story and his conflicting claim regarding where and how Martin confronted him tells us he changed his story during the walk-through video the next day when he realized there were no bushes at the scene behind which Martin could have been hiding.

What do these lies suggest?

They suggest GZ went looking for Martin in the area between the two rows of townhouses and found him where the shooting occurred.

If that is what happened, why would he lie about it?

The obvious conclusion is that he did not want to admit that he went hunting for Martin and found him.

Why is that a problem?

Maybe it has something to do with his statement, “These assholes, they always get away, fuckin’ coons.”

Hmmnn. That sounds like GZ was determined to make sure this “asshole” did not get away.

Why would GZ lie about Martin jumping him?

Could it be because he knew an aggressor cannot claim self-defense?

A pattern is apparent in these lies. They all appear to be motivated by a desire to cover up that he was the aggressor who hunted down TM and attempted to detain him, but TM did not submit to his authority willingly. A struggle ensued in which GZ sustained some minor injuries and he shot and killed TM without legal justification.

This is the incredible power of circumstantial evidence because, ultimately, the explanations GZ offers for each item of evidence become increasingly strained until they degenerate into irrelevant and irritating whining.

As I have said before, he is his own worst enemy and his conviction of the crime of Murder in the Second Degree will materialize out of his own lyin’ mouth and the abundant circumstantial evidence.

13 Reasons Why Zimmerman Was Not the Person Screaming on the 911 Tape

August 8, 2012

I recently listened again to the terrified scream that ended with a gunshot and, for the following reasons, I am now even more certain that TM was screaming.

(1) The scream abruptly stops with the gunshot, which is exactly what one would expect to happen, if TM were screaming. Since the bullet destroyed his right ventricle and collapsed both lungs, he would have lost consciousness almost immediately and would not have been able to push any air past his vocal cords to make a sound.

(2) If GZ were screaming, I do not believe he would have stopped screaming at the exact instant he fired the gun because he would not have known if his life was still in danger and he needed help.

(3) Indeed, according to GZ, he thought his life was still in danger and he kept calling for help. He said he did not know if the shot hit TM and did not find out that he killed TM until an hour and a half after he arrived at the police station. He said TM sat up and said something like, “You got it or you got me.” Then TM fell over or GZ pushed him aside and quickly straddled TM’s body, which was face down. He grabbed TM’s hands and spread them apart so that TM was in a Y-position and he could prevent him from getting up or reaching his gun. He said TM was struggling to get away and kept swearing at him. GZ added that when the neighbor showed up and asked if he should call 911, he told him “No. I need help controlling this guy. Help me, please.” If that story were true, and absolutely none of it is, he would not have stopped screaming or calling for help. Consider, for example, that TM’s body was face down in the grass with his hands under his chest.

(3) There are no audible screams or calls for help after the shot and the scream that ends abruptly with the shot is not a scream for help.

(4) The person is screaming, “No!”

(5) People seeking help do not scream “No.”

(6) We know GZ was lying because it would have been physically impossible for TM to have done any of the things GZ said he did after he fired the fatal shot.

(7) GZ would have realized that no one would believe he killed TM in self-defense, if TM were the person screaming. Therefore, he had to claim that he was the person screaming and he had to tell a story that would support his claim. Depicting TM as still struggling and swearing after the shot was part of that false narrative.

(8) Unfortunately for GZ, he got carried away with supplying false details to support his false narrative. He failed to realize that he would not have had any reason to stop screaming after the shot, if the details he provided about TM being still alive and struggling to get his gun were true and, of course, he did not know that the gunshot wound would prove that all of the unnecessary and inconsistent after-the-shot details he provided were false.

Of course, I have other reasons I have mentioned in previous articles and comments explaining why I believe TM was screaming for help. Briefly,

(9) GZ was an ex-bouncer who had worked security at raves and he was over 40 pounds heavier than TM. He was armed with a loaded gun and TM was unarmed. He would have had a significant physical advantage in a wrestling type encounter with TM.

(10) GZ’s injuries were superficial and no reasonable person would believe he was in imminent danger of being killed or seriously injured. For example, the photographs taken at the police station do not support his claim that he had a broken nose and there are no X-rays to support his claim. The two small cuts to the back of his head do not support his claim that his head was repeatedly banged against a sidewalk and the pattern of the blood flow is not consistent with GZ lying on his back. It is consistent, however, with GZ’s head being upright and leaning forward. The absence of significant abrasions and swelling also are inconsistent with his claim.

(11) As mataharley pointed out yesterday, the debris field commencing with GZ’s small flashlight and key chain next to the N/S sidewalk a few feet south of the T intersection and extending south and a little beyond TM’s body indicates a struggle headed S/B toward the place where TM was staying. This is consistent with TM screaming and attempting to flee toward the place where he was staying with GZ in hot pursuit attempting to prevent him from getting away and inconsistent with GZ’s claim that TM assaulted and attempted to kill him with his bare hands up near the T intersection.

(12) The trajectory of the entry wound directly from front to back, the stippling around the wound, and the alignment of the two holes in the garments he was wearing with the wound indicate the sweatshirts were gripped together and pulled down when GZ fired the fatal shot with the muzzle of the gun in contact with the garment and 2-4 inches from the entry wound. This is not consistent with GZ’s claim of self-defense, but it is consistent with TM attempting to pull away and screaming “No” when GZ fired the fatal shot.

(13) The absence of any of GZ’s blood on the sleeves and cuffs of TM’s sweatshirts and the presence of only TM’s DNA on his fingernail scrapings is inconsistent with GZ’s claim that TM was hitting him repeatedly in the face, gripping and slamming his bloody head repeatedly into the concrete, and gripping his nose while attempting to close his mouth to suffocate him and prevent him from screaming.

Coroner Exonerates Lindy Chamberlain in Dingo Baby Case

June 12, 2012


By Woulfe
Creative Commons on Flickr

After 32 years, Elizabeth Morris, an Australian coroner, has finally corrected a terrible injustice to Lindy Chamberlain and her former husband Michael in the world famous dingo baby case by issuing a new death certificate in which she found that their baby, Azaria Chamberlain, was killed by a dingo that snatched her from the family tent in the Uluru campground near Ayer’s Rock on August 17, 1980.

Lindy saw a dingo leave the tent and when she checked on the baby she found her missing. Despite objective evidence that a dingo had taken her baby (campers heard a growl just before she cried out for help, paw prints in the doorway to the tent, dragmarks in the sand and canine hairs in the tent), most Australians did not believe her claim that a dingo had taken her baby.

In November, 1982 a jury convicted her of murder and her husband Michael of being an accessory to murder after the fact. She was sentenced to life in prison and he was sentenced to probation. They later divorced.

The critical evidence in the case was testimony by James Cameron from the UK and Australian forensic biologist, Joy Kuhl. They testified that infant blood was discovered in the Chamberlain’s car on the dashboard, in a camera bag, on a pair of scissors, and a bloody handprint on Azaria’s jumpsuit. This evidence appeared overwhelming and most Australians applauded the verdict.

Later on, however, forensic serologists reviewing the evidence determined that there was no human blood inside the vehicle or on any of the items examined by Cameron and Kuhl. Instead, they only found red paint.

Kuhl admitted that she had only conducted a presumptive test for blood. She assumed it was human blood without conducting a necessary confirmatory test. Turned out that she had obtained a false positive for human blood due to the presence of copper oxide in the stains, which is ubiquitous to the area where the Chamerlands lived.

Cameron eventually admitted to a royal commission reviewing the case that he merely assumed the handprint contained human blood; he never actually tested it.

The commission exonerated the Chamberlains in 1987 and they were pardoned and compensated.

Nevertheless, despite multiple efforts since then to persuade the coroner to amend Azaria’s death certificate, they were unsuccessful.

Finally, they succeeded after Elizabeth Morris became the coroner.

Malcolm Brown in Darwin reported for the Guardian:

When coroner Elizabeth Morris ruled that a dingo had taken baby Azaria Chamberlain from her cot in the Australian outback 32 years ago, there were smiles, tears of relief and loud applause from the packed gallery at Darwin magistrates court. But there were no surprises.

There had always been a sense of unreality in the conviction of Lindy Chamberlain, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor’s wife and respected member of the community, for cutting the throat of her nine-week-old baby. To this day, nobody has ever advanced a plausible motive.

After Chamberlain’s conviction, there were other instances of dingo attacks on children – including the fatal mauling of nine-year-old Clinton Gage on Queensland’s Bribie Island in 2001 – and they provided the critical circumstantial evidence needed to end the Azaria mystery.

Chamberlain, though remarried, embraced her former husband Michael. They had both suffered the tragedy of Azaria’s death and knew they would probably still be together had it not occurred.

Lindy embraced her son, Aidan, who was six on the night of 17 August 1980 at the Uluru campsite when Lindy let out the chilling cry: “A dingo’s got my baby!” The two wept in each other’s arms. Even Morris could barely stifle a sob when she said: “Mr and Mrs Chamberlain, please accept my sincere sympathy for the death of your special and loved daughter and sister.”

It was the end of a case that had brought international attention over three decades and had been dramatised for television, film and stage. It had even been turned into an opera.

Disturbing Questions About The Civilian Massacre In Afghanistan: UPDATE

March 21, 2012
Afghanistan Boy (photo: UN Photos/flickr)

Afghanistan Boy (photo: UN Photos/flickr)

Jason Ditz at Antiwar.com has a report this morning linking to an AP article in The Australian that U.S. soldiers lined up against a wall all of the adult males in the village of Mokhoyan after an IED blew up a tank injuring American soldiers at a location near the village.

According to the report, the villagers said the Americans told them they knew they were responsible for the IED and they were going to kill at least 20 villagers, including children, to avenge the attack.

According to the villagers, the incident occurred on March 8th. Mokhoyan is in the vicinity of the two villages (Balandi and Alkozai) where Staff Sergeant Robert Bales allegedly murdered 16 civilians, including 9 children, setting some of the bodies on fire during the predawn hours of March 11th.

Jason Ditz also reports today that Bales’s attorney, John Henry Browne, said his client has no memory of the incident and he denies drinking more than a sip or two alcohol that night.

Mr. Browne also said that Bales told him that a friend lost a leg in an IED explosion while on a patrol on March 9th.

The U.S. military has neither confirmed nor denied that the IED explosion reported by the villagers of Mokhoyan is the same incident that Staff Sergeant Bales mentioned to his attorney.

The villagers in Balandi and Alkozai claim that a group of U.S. soldiers committed the murders. The military insists that Staff Sergeant Bales was the only soldier involved.

Appears that the bodies may have been buried before autopsies could be performed to determine specific facts, such as,

(1) the time of death for each victim;

(2) whether more than weapon was involved;

(3) whether the fatal shot or shots were fired from close range;

(4) what was the trajectory of bullet or bullets;

(5) whether there were any exit wounds;

(6) whether there was any evidence (i.e., ligature marks) that the bodies were bound (e.g., wrists tied behind the back);

(7) whether there were any puncture or slashing type wounds consistent with the use of a sharp piercing or cutting instrument like a knife; and

(8) whether there was any evidence of physical torture prior to death.

We also do not know if the houses in which the murders took place were investigated as crime scenes. For example, were any slugs and casings recovered and, if so, how many weapons and what type were involved. Another question I have is whether any bloody fingerprints or footprints were found. Read the rest of this entry »

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